Ten million people own an incredibly powerful computer that fits in their pocket. Not a Palm PDA. Not a Pocket PC. We’re talking about Texas Instruments’ TI-83 and TI-83+ Silver Edition graphing calculators. If math’s involved, there’s little these babies can’t do. But if you’re new to it, it’s not always obvious how to make them jump through hoops for you. Wouldn’t it be great if there were one of those yellow-and-black For Dummies guides? Now, there is: TI-83+ Graphing Calculator for Dummies, by C.C. Edwards.
Seems like every contraption has its own community nowadays. The TI-83’s no exception. Folks in the TI-83 community will know and respect this book’s author. She edited TI’s official calculator newsletter, Eightysomething!, and has contributed dozens of educational projects to TI’s web site.
Here, she covers the TI-83 inside and out, from mode settings to matrix math. If you’re buying a TI-83 (or giving one as a gift), get this book, too. If you’ve already got a TI-83, get it now: You’ll wish you had it sooner.
Spend a few minutes with Chapter 1 for whatever fundamentals you haven’t figured out yet. (What’s the equivalent of the Escape key on this thing? How do I get it to evaluate an expression? How do I access those yellow secondary key functions?)
Next, warm up with a little simple arithmetic. Sure, you don’t need a book to add and subtract -- but Edwards has some timesaving shortcuts you may not have picked up with your $2 solar calculator.
By Chapter 3, you’ll be moving into advanced arithmetic -- including finding LCM, GCD, and factorials. There’s a full chapter on complex numbers: not just entering and calculating with them but also finding real and imaginary parts, complex conjugates, and absolute values.
By the way, don’t get the wrong impression: This isn’t a math textbook. But Edwards provides plenty of examples to give you the real-world practice you’re looking for. (That way, you’ll be 100 percent comfortable when you take your calculator into your SAT or AP Calculus exam.)
The TI-83 is a graphing calculator, and the heart of this book is its coverage of graphing functions, sequences (a.k.a. iterative or recursive functions), parametric equations, and polar equations.
Some of this is nuts-and-bolts stuff (how to view the table and graph on the same itty-bitty screen). Some of it’s conceptual, and quite important (assessing your graph’s accuracy; recognizing asymptotes; knowing when the screen is distorting your graph). But most of it’s problem solving (finding the slope of a tangent to the graph; finding the area under the curve of the function).
There’s a full section on statistics and probability: generating random numbers; evaluating permutations and combinations; sorting data; finding means, medians, and modes; working with quartiles and standard deviation, and so forth. Last but not least, Edwards turns to creating, editing, and using matrices.
The TI-83 isn’t a stand-alone device: It can communicate with other calculators and with other PCs. Edwards shows you how to do all that. She even gives you a taste of programming the TI-83...just in case its hundreds of apps don’t already do what you want. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.